BILL SUMMARY for HB09-1087
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
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01:19 PM -- House Bill 09-1087
Representative Green, prime sponsor, presented House Bill 09-1087 concerning accrual of a civil cause of action arising from the commission of a sexual offense against a child. Current law allows a victim of sexual offense on a child no more than six years to file a civil claim for damages against the perpetrator. The six years begin running when the incident occurs or when a disability is removed (i.e., a minor reaches the age of 18 or a person declared mentally incompetent is assigned a legal guardian to act on his or her behalf). This is when the cause of action accrues. This bill modifies when the cause of action accrues to be six years after the date on which the victim recognizes the existence and cause of his or her injury and tells someone other than a licensed medical professional. The bill only applies to offenses for which the statute of limitations has not yet expired by the effective date.
Representative Green read an e-mail message from a victim of sexual assault and talked about the need for this bill. She explained her reason for excluding licensed medical professionals. The committee discussed prepared amendments L.001 (Attachment A) and L.002 (Attachment B). Amendment L.001 further expands the list of individuals who are excluded from witnessing an individual's account of sexual abuse for the purposes of a civil action accruing. The bill as drafted only mentions licensed medical professionals, but the amendment includes a person employed or volunteering with an advocacy group or assistance organization that works with victims of sexual abuse. The committee talked about the logistical problems around how a victim would inform another individual not excluded by the bill (i.e., a spouse, sibling, friend, or child) about the abuse.
01:37 PM -- Julie Pelegrin, Office of Legislative Legal Services, appeared to respond to questions about the waiver of doctor-patient privilege in current law versus that which is being amended by the bill. The committee discussed the potential of an implied waiver of privilege that occurs when a plaintiff's mental state is in question with regard to emotional damages. The committee discussed the types of disability under which an individual might be under current law and how a cause of action accrues when such a disability is lifted. Ms. Pelegrin explained the difficulty in determining when an emotional or psychological disability is removed. The committee also discussed the time when a victim of sexual abuse is ready to acknowledge their abuse.
02:02 PM -- Jeff Ruebel, Colorado Defense Lawyer's Association, spoke in opposition. Mr. Ruebel stated that the bill is dangerous precedent and the current system has more than adequate protections for victims. He discussed the problems faced by defense lawyers who are required to prepare an adequate defense, even if the cause of action accrues 30 years after the act occurred. He indicated that the bill could cause problems for corporations, nonprofits, and other organizations that deal with children. The committee discussed the problems faced by churches and other institutions if a long period of time is allowed to elapse before a civil action is filed. They also discussed the difficulties inherent in proving when an individual's disability is removed.
Representative Levy announced that the bill requires more work and it would be laid over until February 19, 2009. Representative Green made closing remarks.